One step forward, two steps back

My previous post highlighted what I perceive to be wonderful leaps forward in our collaborative and purposeful use of Web 2.0 tools.  We recently held a parent forum where parents were encouraged to give feedback on all spheres of our operation within the school – we sought warm and cool feedback and it will be no surprise that we received both.

I will have to admit to a fair amount of surprise about the comments on our blogging.  Many positive mentions were made about the improved home/school communication and window in to the classroom, however, there was more negativity than I expected.  Basically, it appears that we have not communicated or it has not been accepted that the value of blogging is worth the emphasis we place on it.  This is obviously from a small sample of parents and a few vocal ones but nevertheless is important.  From reading the comments, I think I can separate the reactions to valuing Class Blogs, but not valuing or understanding Student Blogs.

One parent made a valid comment about blogs needing to be purposeful, going on to suggest that they include spelling words etc.  My  feeling is that that parent and others are doing what we all do when relating to education and relating it to our own experience as students. Trying to transport our experience into today’s world.

There is a mindset shift required to understand the added value provided by publishing our work in an on-line space instead of writing in our exercise books.  This Parent Forum highlighted to me that we are yet to fully inform our parent community of this concept and get them on board.  On further reflection, I think we also need to re-visit the concept with our staff as well to ensure a consistent approach across our school.

Earlier this year, twenty of our senior primary students voluntarily embarked on the Student Blogging Challenge.  As with any venture, there were mixed reactions.  On the whole though, it was wonderful.   It was very worthwhile with many ‘teachable’ moments coming from the on-line interactions  and  it seems to have really inspired many other students who are now embarking on the current round of the Blogging Challenge.  I have noticed how our new set of bloggers have taken to the medium with enormous enthusiasm and great skills.  They seem to know that they have an audience, they have strategies for attracting comments, they interact with each other with quality comments.  They have learnt a great deal from their peers who are now mentoring them.

Ever since the parent forum, I have in the back of my mind, how to get the message across to parents ?


What’s happening?

Picture this :
  • Connor comments on Matt’s first blog post and gives him advice as an experienced  (6 months) blogger and wishing him ‘Good Luck’
  • A Year 3/4 class participate in a global project with schools in South Africa/NZ/USA/UK/Canada and Chile using a Wiki and Edmodo to share stories
  • Sue comments on Simon’s post with his published story, encouraging his writing
  • Mary posts to Edmodo publicising her new blog post (having returned to blogging after a lapse of a month or so) and responds to a homework tasks by sharing her response on-line
  • Teachers post comments on student blogs, praising, encouraging and suggesting
  • Robyn  and Mark trouble shoot  issues with saving and exporting Kodu projects for entering to Screen It competition by consulting the on-line help
  • Joe uses the chat feature on Skoodle (SuperClubsPlus) to get help from a classmate correcting his spelling words from home (he left the sheet at school)
  • A new blogger asks for help from classmates on Edmodo
  • A teacher posts on Edmodo reminding students to support a worthy cause they have been discussing
  • Brenden requests to use You-tube to look up  a movie how to create a bridge using Kodu (game making software)
  • Teachers sharing resources and ideas via a Yammer community
  • A student adds a page to his blog linking to his YouTube channel (created at home) with ‘How-To’ videos he has created.  (An opportunity here for discussion about Terms of Service that he is breaking)
  • A new season of Quad-blogging begins as the US school year opens
  • Students publish their thoughts about their current animation project on Edmodo
  • Staff share resources and ideas on a Yammer network
  • A teacher emails parents, praising student work, highlighting ways they can be involved, raising awareness of events and blog posts
  • A Year 3 student emails me on the weekend asking for his SuperclubsPlus log in details as he left them at school
  • Class teachers constantly posting to Twitter to advertise their new blog posts and connecting with other educators
  • A group of students working on a collaborative project decide to create a data chart to itemise their roles and responsibilities
  • An author responds to the draft writing of students that they have published on their blogs for feedback
  • The mother of a fresh blogger responds to her son’s writing
  • A new class blog connecting with a buddy class at a nearby school to promote commenting skills
  • A teacher from another school responds to a student’s post
  • Sarah uses Edmodo to ask her classmates for opinions as to the language to select for Year 7 next year
  • Susan, a student from another school introduces herself to Samara from our school as another Student blogging Challenge participant
  • Sue W, the organiser of the Student Blogging challenge comments on student blogs, welcoming them to the challenge.
Do you get the idea? A fortnight in our on-line world.  So it made me think ….  Each conversation can be considered in regard to Richard Olsen’s Model.

The purpose of this white paper is to use the Collective Knowledge Construction Model to identify strategies by which knowledge construction is facilitated when learning online. And, secondly to encourage teachers, school leaders and other stakeholders to reimagine the pedagogical, technical and contextual consequences that arise from teaching and learning in technology rich environments.

Collective Knowledge Construction

I find it helpful to refer to this and ponder where we are and where we might direct the learning so we continue to explore the possibilities created by our involvement in the online world.  Where to next?


Blogging as part of the learning

Any reader of this blog will know that I love blogging and often use it personally to ask questions and explore issues.  I have been lucky enough to introduce personal blogging to a group of 10 – 12 year olds and used the Student Blogging Challenge to launch this process. They very quickly applied new skills: adding widgets, commenting, navigating the dashboards and adding posts.  Most did only what was required while a few seemed to ‘click’ with the notion that their blogs could be an added tool in their learning.  The ‘showcase’ element of blogging is easy: create a product, publish it, get feedback (always positive).

Listening to and reading the work of Ideas Lab, I was keen to explore another facet of blogging.

Rethinking Transparency

Communicate the whole learning process not just student achievements.
Schools also need to reimagine what students publish. Rather than simply showcasing student achievements and reflections upon the process as a whole, students should be encouraged to share the entire learning process.
Schools should teach and encourage students to share their project ideas, their reflections, their progress and their achievements. School should also consider whether every student should have a blog, a journal where they have the freedom to plan, share and reflect.  – Understanding-Virtual-Pedagogies

An opportunity arose recently when a student published his ‘unfinished’ narrative.  He put a note on the class Edmodo page,  explaining that it was not finished.  Having developed a wonderful PLN (including one author), I immediately thought, here was an opportunity for our young author to connect, to get feedback during the process.  I contacted an author (thanks Kelly) and within minutes, the student had a beautifully written commentary on his draft story.  Lovely feedback and constructive suggestions for improvement from a credible, experienced writer.
It remains to be seen, as this was only yesterday, how this translates directly to the piece of work in progress.  But I cannot see, how this intervention cannot have a positive effect on the young writer.  He knows he has an audience, he knows there are people with skills that can assist his growth and that they are not all in his classroom or school.

At a recent day with other educators including Alec Couros, we discussed how teachers can be the nodes for our students learning, how we can create a network around ourselves and consequently around our students.  This was a perfect opportunity to prove this concepts value.

How can we help our students to develop their own Personal Learning Networks?

Reform Symposium 2011

It isn’t over yet, but I like to reflect by writing and so here I am…. tap, tap, tap.    I just finished listening to the Couros Brothers entertain and inform up to 200 people whilst drawing a comparison between schools and a family restaurant.   These brothers have a beautiful ability to get meaningful messages in a very user friendly package.   I won’t paraphrase because you can see the recording if you like and I would not do justice to their message.     Instead I will ‘steal’ a few quotes and explain how they fit into my reality or how they connect to other RSCON3 experiences.



Who is going to argue with this ?  No teacher I know would say that they want to teach a class of the same child x 24.  No principal would want a staffroom of  teachers with the same skills, interests and passions.    Thankfully we have many processes and methods in place that allow students and teachers the flexibility to apply their skills, expand their passions.  No doubt we could improve these opportunities and I think this weekends conferences have focussed on the many ways Web 2.0 can work towards that goal.   Pernille Ripp’s inspiring session on Blogging was the best summary I have heard of how the simple KidBlog application can change lives.



Mingling virtually is easy and this weekend has been a great opportunity.  I admit to probably preferring to hide behind the keyboard when sharing my thoughts, letting my fingers do the talking.  My stuttering nervousness comes out when face to face and I am often left with regrets that I “should have said that” or wish “I did not say that”.     Twitter is a great place to mingle and thereby catch up with what is going on out there.   Henrietta Miller exposed us in her presentation to her Teachmeet idea and from within that room and new #TMmelb was born.  The concept here, is that ‘Twitter friends’ actually arrange face to face meetings in local areas (Henrietta lives in Sydney so she hosted one at her school).   They agree to share something with the others attending but in general it sounds like a great chance for a chat that informs as well as affirms.    What happens with TMmelb will remain to be seen.

Blogging is also a great way of mingling – reading other blogs is like walking in between conversations at a party, dipping in, staying if it interests or tuning out and moving to the next group.  Stop and stay and chat and leave comments or just listen in, read and move on.



I guess this is similar to the previous idea – learning does not occur in isolation.  Chuck Sandy in his keynote spoke about the MASHCollaboration Site – A professional development for teachers.  The motto being, Meet, Ask, Share and Help.  This seems to embody George’s comment about learning being social.   (I really want to listen to that keynote again as it was very powerful).    Both Henrietta Miller’s TeachMeets and Pernille Ripp’s student blogs are also evidence of learning being enhanced, even driven, by socialising, connecting with others.   Personally, as many know, last year I participated in an on-line course that deepened my understanding of Web 2 tools.   It was very successful and I believe that was mainly due to the interactive nature of the course, connections between myself and the other learners (many from my own school).      The days of walking in to a classroom and judging the success of the lesson or the skills of the teacher by the level of the noise are long gone – learning is messy and noisy, due to it’s social nature.

You can almost feel the passion when the Couros brothers speak – when they draw an analogy between their family history and their work as educators, it is passion driven.     Hearing Pernille speak about her classes concern for blogging buddies in Egypt during the time of civil unrest, there is nothing but passion.  The emotions are involved and that creates motivation and hopefully that leads to great learning.

So that is how I am connecting what I have heard so far ……. thanks to all those passionate speakers who inspire us and keep us on our ‘educational toes’

In case you have not heard of this Symposium it is 48 hour feast of Professional learning conducted entirely on-line, relying on volunteer presenters and organisers, Details here.

Anyone else had interesting RSCON3 experiences ?



To edit or not to edit? – That is the question

I have spent a lot of time recently viewing student blogs.  I also work with students who have their own KidBlog accounts.  They are really enjoying the comments and the connected feeling they get when they receive comments on their posts.  The interactivity is heart warming.  Children really do seem to like to read other children’s writing.

Obviously, our students are not all precision writers or word perfect scholars and there are often errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.  I have seen a few conversations between teachers on the question of editing student work. This is how I see the debate so far ..

Complete teacher edit before publish Child controlled edit before publish
For Against For Against
Children see that correct conventions must be followed for publishing Stifle enthusiasm Children are given ownership of the written material Teaching opportunity may be lost
Readers can easily take in content without having to decipher incorrect spelling and grammar Takes away children’s ownership of work Children learn from experience that poorly edited posts are not received as well Poor conventions are displayed to other readers
Correct conventions are displayed to readers Slows down process as requires adult intervention Displays ‘true’ image of child’s ability – more accurate portfolio Importance of conventions is diminished
Children are modeled proofreading and editing skills Children learn editing and proofreading skills

I am a fence sitter on this issue at the moment, I can see merit in both sides of this argument.  I admit to cringing when I see posts and comments that have so many errors they are difficult to understand.  I wince when the Shift Key is ignored and comments come in chat format.  I have iterated and re-iterated the importance of correct conventions with limited success.  I also admit to editing many posts and comments before approving them.

On the other side, I love the interaction I see and do not want to stifle that in any way.

What do you think????  I am sure there are other elements to consider.